The European Commission on Tuesday said more than one border crossing may need to be opened to deliver additional humanitarian aid into the Gaza strip, where more than 10,000 people have died in the past month due to intense Israeli bombardments.
“We are calling for safe and unrestricted access of humanitarian aid,” EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic told reporters at an airport in north-east Belgium, where EU aid bound for Gaza was uploaded into planes.
“That means as many entry points as necessary need to be available. If there is sufficient capacity at Rafah then we should do it through Rafah crossing,” said Mr Lenarcic. “If not, additional crossings should be opened including for instance Kerem Shalom.”
The Egyptian controlled Rafah border crossing has become the main entry point into the Gaza strip since Israel imposed a total siege of the enclave following Hamas-led attacks on Israel on October 7 that killed over 1,400 people.
Israel severely restricts humanitarian aid entering the Gaza strip, causing it to plummet from about 500 lorries a day to 500 lorries in four weeks, Mr Lenarcic said. “There is a need to scale up enormously the quantity of humanitarian aid that reaches people in Gaza,” he said.
Calls to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing have so far been rejected by Israel. The UN said last week that Kerem Shalom was “the only crossing equipped to rapidly process a sufficiently large number of trucks”.
Mr Lenarcic also called on Israel to remove fuel restrictions which is “desperately needed” to power generators, run hospitals, operate water pumps and desalination plants.
Some EU countries, including France, have said they are discussing a maritime corridor of humanitarian aid via Cyprus. The Commission's president, Ursula von der Leyen, said in a speech on Monday said she welcomed Cyprus' “excellent co-operation” but no concrete announcements have been made so far.
Mr Lenarcic said that the idea of a maritime corridor faced important obstacles including the lack of a functioning port on the Gaza shore. “This would have to be fixed somehow,” he said,” but in short, we are in favour of all possible entry routes for the access of humanitarian aid into the Gaza strip.”
Speaking to ABC News, Israel's Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu rejected the idea of a ceasefire without the release of the more than 200 hostages detained by Hamas.
“As far as tactical little pauses, an hour here, an hour there,” he said in an interview broadcast overnight, adding that Israel would control the Gaza strip once the war is over for “an indefinite period.”
The EU Council, where heads of state of the bloc's 27 countries meet, called two weeks ago for “humanitarian corridors and pauses for humanitarian needs”.
“It's not important how you call things,” said Mr Lenarcic.
“Humanitarian windows, pauses, or ceasefire – what is necessary is that there is safe and unrestricted access for humanitarian aid that reaches all people wherever they are who need this aid, and this is the responsibility of parties involved.”